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Glendun (Gleann Duinne)

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Not the largest of the glens but perhaps one of the most tranquil. Glendun meanders down under the magnificent Glendun Viaduct, past the ancient Mass Rock, the Gloonan Stone, Saint Patrick’s Well to the sleepy village of Cushendall and the remains of Castle Carra.

The Mass Rock is a location where Mass was celebrated in old times before a church was built in the area, and even now, once a year a procession is made from the present church to the old altar. The origin of this beautiful carving is unknown, some people believe it originated from the Scottish Isles whilst others say it is a Runic stone. The Gloonan Stone is said to have been a place where Saint Patrick knelt to pray and indeed this is the explanation given for the smaller of the two holes warn. The second and larger hole in the stone is known as Saint Patrick’s Well, the water is said to have holy powers used to cure warts.

Castle Carra stands almost completely covered in ivy near at the bottom of Glendun. In 1585 Sorely Boy MacDonnell is said to have rescued his son Donnell Gorm from the tower in the castle, when he landed in bay from Scotland.

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Ballypatrick Forest

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Five miles from Ballycastle on the inland road (A2) to Cushendall, Ballypatrick is a pleasant six mile forest drive next to Watertop Farm. Twisting and turning along this very peaceful one way trail you find numerous spots to just pull-up and rest for while in the tranquility of it all. A cool refreshing stream meanders alongside the road and at one point you drive through the stream by means of the ford shown above.

There are numerous picnic areas, some with spectacular views of the surrounding heather covered hills, trees, Ballycastle bay and Rathlin Island. The trail passes near the site of a ‘Double Horned Cairn’, an archaeological site dating back to 2000BC with two burial chambers. There are a few walks if you like stretch your legs and for those who do there are again some rewards!!!

Location

Follow the eastward A2 coast road for 5 miles, you can’t miss it.

The forest is open all year from 10am until sunset and has toilet facilities.
Further Details: 028207 62301

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Glenarm (Gleann Airm)

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The Glen

Glenarm, southernmost of the nine glens, is among the most under populated of the glens and is due mainly to the Glenarm Castle Estate that spans theglenarmcastlefront02_300-2693817 glen. This estate has been designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) and it has adopted an environmentally friendly policy to ensure the safety of the glen’s natural resources and wildness. As you travel down the glen from the open moor lands of the Antrim Plateau you will enter a silent glen, the road tunnelled by overhanging oak trees meanders down the side off the estate, you will see a haven of wildlife with wild pheasants (I know I seen them on the road), foxes and rabbits. The estate is home Aberdeen Angus/Cross suckler cattle and mainly grey-faced ewes (sheep), it also caters for activities including open days, shooting, river fishing, 4×4 off-road driving and corporate entertainment.
Glenarm Castle website is filled with useful information 

The Village

When you enter the village it is probably best to park at the seafront and walk around. Claiming to be the oldest town in Ireland after being granted a charter in the 12th century, glenarmcastlegateway160-3291689Glenarm is tiny village with narrow little thoroughfares soaked in culture with friendly people, a forest walk and don’t miss Bill & Christina Steenson crafting their jewellery masterpieces in the open workshop/showroom on the main street. The Barbican gate stands proudly in one of the side streets as a reminder of the immense history that surrounds the village.

The History

Evidence suggests that the glen has been occupied since the late Stone Age (Neolithic period) with at least one court cairn and several wedge tombs discovered. There are also a number of Iron Age raths and souterrains, indeed a rath has recently been excavated and found to have been occupied between 500AD and 950AD. Around 1500AD a Third Order Franciscan Friary was founded on the site where the Church of Ireland now stands, Shane O’Neill’s decapitated body is said have been laid to rest here in 1567AD after he was killed at Cushendun by the MacDonnell’s.

Further history information is available at Glenarm Castle and AntrimHistory

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Glenariff (Gleann Aireamh)

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‘Queen of the Glens’ is the largest and most famous of the nine glens, with beautiful scenery, magnificent waterfalls and 900 hectares of woodland. Entering Glenariff through the Red Bay Arch, built by Francis Turnly in 1817, you will pass Red Bay Harbor used in 1849 to export iron ore from Glenravel. On the right at the roadside you will see buildings in the rock face that where used in the 1700s by locals as schools and secret places of meeting. Shortly you will arrive at a left turn that will take you into Waterfoot village where you can gain access the beach that is home to the Heron, Shellduck, Kingfisher, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Gannets and Eider Ducks. The most interesting of these is the Ringed Plover that in order to protect it’s young from danger will pretend to have a broken wing thus luring the predator away from the nest, whilst this may look humorous it is obviously a life and death matter for the young vulnerable chicks in the nest.

Forest Park

The main attraction is Glenariff Forest Park that was started about 100 years ago when the first hazel, oak, ash and willow trees where planted to enhance the already plentiful woods. The 1185 ha park includes car parks, caravanning, camping sites, picnic, barbeque areas, horse riding routes, toilets, visitor center and several walking routes.
The walking routes vary from 1km to 9km in length, my favorite is the waterfall trail that takes you down a steep gorge with the waterfall shown above greeting you at the bottom. When there has been a lot of rain this waterfall has a chilling roar and as you walk across the bridge prepared to get sprayed! Follow the trail on down the gorge under the blanket of tree foliage soaking up the tranquility of the trickling river again to be greeted by more waterfalls. Stop in at the restaurant for a bite before strolling up thought he forest past the occasional squirrel and rabbit.

Open from 10am until sunset.
2002 Fees: Car £3.00; Motorbike £2.00; Minibus £8.00; Coach £20.00; Pedestrian Adult £1.50; Child £0.50

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Glenshesk (Gleann Seisce)

Glenshesk starts at the back of Knocklayde mountain and meanders around its base down to Ballycastle Bay where it meets up with Glentaisie. The upper slopes are green fertile fields home to flocks of sheep and the little farms that survive through the harsh winters. The base is a haven for wildlife with a thick carpet of trees and hedgerows that surround the narrow winding road. At the bottom of the glen is Ballycastle Golf Course that was once a regular site for battles between the local warriors, the MacDonnells, MacQuillans and McNeills. Also nestled on this ancient battlefield is Bonamargy Friary where indeed there are many of these warriors buried.

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Cushendun (Bun Abhann Doinne)

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Ballycastle Forest

Nestled on the side of Knocklayde mountain Ballycastle forest has two entrances, the first is at the end of Fairhill Street (directly off the Diamond) and the second is up on the high Glenshesk Road. At both points you can park your car and walk from there, picnic benches are also provided but in all honesty I find the Glenshesk Road entrance more scenic and tranquil. Although it’s not a particularly interesting forest the views are somewhat spectacular as the trail leads you half way up Knocklayde placing you above most of the surrounding hills and glens.

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Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937)

Guglielmo Marconi was a native of Italy and a 1909 Nobel Prize winner in physics. In May 1898 Marconi along with his assistant Kemp resided at what is now commonly known as Marconi’s cottage which lies within walking distance of Ballycastle seafront (3 miles). The house was used to carry out radio transmission experiments to and from Rathlin Island. Unfortunately due to the lack of initiative on local councils part the cottage was purchased privately and is now somebody’s home.
It’s a beautiful but rather cold spot that awakens you to pioneering spirit of Marconi and his accomplice during those early days of radio experimentation.

Location

Take the east A2 coast road and take the first left onto Carrickmore Road and follow it until you find another left turn, adjacent to Maguire’s Strand Caravan Park, continue to the end of this road where you will find a car park at the far side of which is Marconi’s cottage.

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Books

Lost Railways of Co. Antrim
Author: Stephen Johnson
Publisher: Stenlake Publishing www.stenlake.co.uk Price: £7.50 2002

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Old Portrush, Bushmills and the Giant’s Causeway
Author: Alex F. Young
Publisher: Stenlake Publishing www.stenlake.co.uk
Price: £7.50
2002

The Giant’s Causeway and the North Antrim Coast Author: Philip Watson

Publisher: O’Brien (www.obrien.ie)

Price: £6.99, $9.95, €8.88 ISBN 0-86278-675-4

2000

The Nine Glens Author: Maureen Donnelly Publisher: Impact Printing Coleraine & Ballycastle Price: £7.99 ISBN 0-948154-40-3

June 2000

Birds of Rathlin Author: Gerry Bond Publisher: Impact Printing Coleraine & Ballycastle Price:  ISBN 

1990

Rathlin its island story Author: Wallace Clark Publisher: Impact Printing Coleraine & Ballycastle Price:  ISBN 0-948154-76-4

1993

Rathlin’s Rugged Story: from an Islander’s Perspective
Author: Augustine McCurdy
Publisher: Impact Printing Coleraine & Ballycastle
ISBN 0-948154-54-6
2000

A History of the island of Rathlin
Author: Mrs Gage Publisher: Margaret J Dickson ISBN 0-948154-87-X

1995

Flora of Rathlin Island
Author: Margaret J Dickson
Publisher: Impact Printing Coleraine & Ballycastle

The Harsh Winds of Rathlin: Stories of Rathlin Shipwrecks
Author: Tommy Cecil
Publisher: Impact Printing Coleraine & Ballycastle
ISBN 0-948154-65-9
1990

Historic Buildings, Groups of Buildings, Areas of Architectural Importance in the island of Rathlin
Author: C.E.B. Brett Publisher: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society

1974

Rathlin Island and Parish
Author: Rev. H.I. Law (Curate-in-Charge 1940-43) Publisher: The Mid-Ulster Printing Co. Ltd., Cookstown

1961

Sea Wrack
Author: Mary Campbell Publisher: JS Scarlett & Son, Ballycastle

1951

Rathlin Island – North of Antrim
Author: Hugh Alexander Boyd Publisher: JS Scarlett & Son, Ballycastle

1947

Notes on the Statistics and Natural History of the Island of Rathlin
Author: James Drummond Marshall Publisher: in the transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. 

1836

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Crannogs

Crannogs are lake dwellings, artificial islands on which people built their homes from the Neolithic period until as late as the 17th century AD.
They were formed by laying down layers of logs, stones, peat and brush, or whatever other material came to hand (including animal bones), to raise a mound out of the water. The fine example at Lough-na-cranagh, Fairhead, has dry stone facing rising up to 7 ft above the water. To the modern eye, Crannogs may seem uncomfortable places to live, and remnants of wooden palisades suggest that they were designed for defence. But is quite possible that they were simply a practical way of building on marshland, and that the lakes developed later.

They can be a rich source of finds, since the prevailing damp preserves perishable substances like wood and leather.